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Presbytery Oversight Committee Letter - 20 Sep 2017

27 Sep 2017 8:19 pm
Starting September 28, 2017 - Ending November 29, 2017 Expired

The Presbytery Report after discussions with both Berwick and Trinity Congregations recommends that there be no immediate vote on amalgamation (set for October 1) of the congregations and that further discussions are needed among and between congregations. See the report below [click Read more] or in the attached pdf document. Presbytery Report.

Berwick-Trinity Report Sept. 20, 2017

At the request of the Berwick-Trinity Pastoral Charge the Reverend Karen Lynch and I attended congregational meetings Sept. 19 on behalf of the Pastoral Oversight Committee of Valley Presbytery to facilitate discussion of a proposal to bring the two points together as one congregation.

A vote on the proposal by each congregation is scheduled for Oct. 1. After hearing from 14 persons at the Berwick church and 13 at the Trinity church in Waterville we recommend that the vote be postponed to allow for more time for people in both congregations to come together to discuss the implications and consequences of the proposed amalgamation.
We were impressed with the careful preparation and research that went into the creation of the council governance model. It is clearly outlined and we, on the advice of Maritime Conference executive secretary David Hewitt, have no hesitation in recommending Presbytery approval of the model that should streamline the governance system and provide for improved communication.

While the paperwork is exemplary, there is a lot of “people work” that needs to be done before the two congregations can come together. The two congregations presented two very different views of the rationale for the proposed amalgamation. In Berwick we heard that the amalgamation was 30 years in the making, that the costs of maintaining two buildings was burdensome and the fundraising work is wearing out an ageing congregation. One person said Trinity-Berwick is “one church worshipping the same God” and only needs one building.

We heard that the Charge is a family and the amalgamation was the best way to keep the family together. We heard people speak of the joy of worshipping together at joint services. One person said that “we are a stronger congregation when we are together.” Another person spoke of the energy that was evident when people from both congregations work together. The Berwick people look forward to one congregation sharing leadership and working together to do the work that God has called them to do.

The people at the Berwick meeting acknowledged that the amalgamation would be painful for the smaller congregation at Trinity who stand to lose their church building and their 9:30 a.m. service time. The Berwick people felt those in the Trinity congregation might feel they were being swallowed up in the new congregation. They talked about ways of welcoming the Trinity people to the Berwick building and how they could work together to establish a vision and way forward. We were impressed with the compassion and concern expressed by the people of the Berwick church for their brothers and sisters at Trinity. They acknowledged that the effort required to develop the governance system and to work towards the coming together had left little time for development of a vision or mission for the new congregation.

At the Trinity meeting in Waterville we were told that the amalgamation proposal was not welcome and many people are upset by what they saw as an assumption that, as one people put it, “This congregation will quietly close up and join the Berwick congregation. Unfortunately there is quite a bit of “us and them” in this pastoral charge and not much “our".

Several people questioned the rationale for the amalgamation, insisting that the Berwick church was expensive to maintain and the cost savings of closing Trinity would not be significant. There was debate about the physical condition of the two church buildings- a report on the buildings done for the Official Board was mentioned but few people seemed to be familiar with it.

The people at Trinity spoke of their deep love for the building where many have worshipped for several decades. But they also spoke passionately of their church family and the close ties that exist. They fear that those ties may be broken if the amalgamation goes ahead, the Trinity church closes and members may head to New Minas, or Berwick or to other churches – or simply decide not to attend services anywhere. There is also a fear that the Trinity people will be absorbed by the Berwick congregation and will lose their identity as a rural congregation. One of the major considerations was the time of services. The Trinity people cherish their 9:30 a.m. service, which gives them the rest of the day for family activities. They do not wish to move to an 11 a.m. service. They did not feel that their concerns had been heard by church leaders who have led the amalgamation process. One person commented that during social times after joint service the Berwick people talk with each other and the Trinity people stay to themselves as well.

Many people at the Trinity meeting were surprised to hear that their Berwick brothers and sisters recognize their potential sense of loss and the desire to help each other through that. There was discussion of the congregation staying together outside of the United Church of Canada. There was a proposal that if the amalgamation went ahead then the Trinity church should be the worship centre. There was another proposal that both churches are sold and a smaller, modern building be built to fit the needs of the new congregation.


We were impressed with the passion that the people of Berwick-Trinity have for their work in the church of Christ and the concern and compassion that they share. Sadly, from what we heard at the meetings, that compassion and concern has not been well communicated. There is a lot of information that people need to make the decision that should be put together in a short one or two page document outlining the rationale for the proposed amalgamation. Those questions deal with the current financial situation and the financial implications of the change, the place of worship for the new congregation, the service time, and most importantly, how the new congregation would be better suited to do the work that Christ calls us to.


1. That the proposed Oct. 1 coming together vote be postponed. At the present time there appears to be a a very different perception of what coming together means in each of the congregations. The communication gap needs to be addressed.
2. That the congregations come together for one or more information sessions as a Charge to discuss the proposed amalgamation and share their concerns and their celebrations. If it is the wish of the Charge, the Pastoral Oversight committee would organize and chair the meeting or meetings.
3. That any vote on a coming together be scheduled and structured to ensure adequate notice and maximum participation.

The Reverend Karen Lynch The Reverend Kevin Cox